Bryant and the Lakers will try for a better result as they look to snap a season-high four-game losing streak Thursday at Staples Center when they face James and the Cavaliers for the second time in five days.
Bryant scored 36 points, had seven rebounds and six assists, but Los Angeles lost 99-90 at Cleveland on Sunday to finish 3-5 on their longest road trip of the season.
James had 18 points in the win—his second-lowest total in seven games against the Lakers (30-23)—along with eight rebounds and five assists. He also had help getting 21 points from Sasha Pavlovic and 17 from Zydrunas Ilgauskas.
The Cavaliers (30-22) went 13-for-18 from the free-throw line in the final period and outscored the Lakers 35-23.
“Our defense pretty much caved,” Bryant said. “The fourth quarter is when you really want to hold a team down and force them to hit shots—not put them at the free-throw line.”
Bryant, who averages 28.7 points overall and 31.7 in his last four games against Cleveland, likely would trade another high-scoring night for a win. Los Angeles’ longest losing streak last season was five games.
“The game was won by second-chance opportunities in the last couple minutes of the game, where we didn’t capture a rebound,” Lakers coach Phil Jackson said after his team was outscored 60-34 in the paint.
Los Angeles is 19-7 at home this season, but has lost three straight at Staples Center. The Cavaliers—10-15 on the road—have lost their last seven to the Lakers in Southern California since a 94-84 win on Dec. 7, 1997.
Cleveland had its three-game win streak snapped Wednesday night with a 99-98 loss at Utah. James had 23 points on just 9-for-25 shooting and 10 rebounds but scored only four points in the fourth quarter.
James, headed to Sunday’s All-Star game, is shooting 14-for-41 from the field in his last two games.
Cleveland had a chance to win at the end, but Pavlovic collided with Utah’s Gordan Giricek as he got off a 37-footer just before the buzzer. The Cavaliers thought a foul could have been called.
“He dribbled the basketball and Giricek tried to take a charge and he slid to the side and he fouled him with time on the clock,” Cleveland coach Mike Brown said. “Maybe that’s too tough a position for the refs to be in to make that type of call. Watching the replay, it was a foul and it’s unfortunate for us.”
Cavaliers starting guard Daniel Gibson is doubtful for this game after suffering a sprained toe Wednesday.